CTU's Dr. Frank Prochaska Facilitates Leadership Seminar in the Balkans

Dr. Frank Prochaska, Professor Emeritus, (a roving CTU ambassador) recently facilitated another interesting leadership seminar in the Balkans.  This one was for the Albanian School of Political Studies in the Mediterranean city of Vlora, Albania.  Indicative of the rich Albanian history, Vlora has been Greek, Roman, Venetian, Turkish, Serbian, and eventually Albanian when they became independent in 1912.

He said it was special to land at “Mother Theresa Airport” in Tirana, Albania, in a former communist land that was totally shut off from most of the world during the Cold War era. Mother Theresa, the Catholic Nun, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979, was an Albanian born in Skopje, Macedonia.  She is held in highest respect throughout Albania, in contrast to Enver Hoxha.

The communist dictator, Enver Hoxha (Hozha), led the country into total isolation from 1944 until his death in 1985. His legacy, other than the destruction of the economy, and most other systems (including the minds and the spirit of the people), is the complex of 750,000 concrete pill boxes (bunkers) scattered everywhere across this country of 3 million inhabitants to protect against invasions. The ugly, ubiquitous bunkers, and other communist era construction, can not ruin the beautiful Albanian landscape made up of high mountains, the sea, and some villages seemingly carved out of stone. If Albania has a style today it is “Late Communist Mediterranean”.

The young leaders attending the seminar were doctors, lawyers, teachers/professors, journalists, members of parliament, mayors of cities, security professionals, and even the top TV news anchor for the country.  The schools of political studies are under the auspices of the Council of Europe and help foster a modern political culture implementing a contemporary democratic model of government. After one year of this program, the Albanians will meet with 15 other schools from emerging democracies in Strasbourg, France at the week-long Summer University for Democracy.

The Albanians have a unique language and culture based on the ancient Illyrians, unrelated to anything else in present day Europe.  For example: female first names of attendees included Anila, Blerta, Eglantina, Enina, Klodiana, Oriana, Jonida, and Rezana; males included Afrim, Olsi, Arber, Ledio, Bilbil, Dritan, Ilir, and Evarist.  “Po” is “yes”, and “Jo” (Yo) is “no”, and to make matters worse, often the head is moved up and down for no/jo and side ways for yes/po, as in Bulgaria. 

Dr. Prochaska always has most seminar materials in the national languages, in this case Albanian.  Group discussions and exercises are often in the native tongue.  Frank explained that psychological team building tools work best in a person’s native language. All activities at the Summer University of Democracy are in English, French, or Russian. All of the Albanian students spoke English; and were also fluent in a couple other languages besides Albanian. 

Frank assumed most Albanians would be Muslim.  He was wrong; the 35 young professionals in class were Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Protestant, Atheists and non-practicing Muslims. They drink and eat, (and smoke) and sing, like most other Europeans! At an evening in a restaurant on the beach, they brought in home-made Raki, a grape based lighter fluid, similar to Italian Grappa, or Balkan Slivovitz, for after-dinner drinks.  They are a very proud people and call their country Shqipëria, the land of the eagle.  And like our students at Colorado Tech, they are motivated, hard-working young people, who make the world a better place. 

Frank and his wife Elfi made a one day visit to Albania (from Bulgaria)10 years ago on a snowy November day, near the Macedonian border.  Still haunting him is a conversation he had with a 12 year old blue-eyed blond Albanian boy, who was plowing a snowy field behind his Oxen, and the boy was barefoot in the snow!  Frank remembers, “We had nothing to give the boy…why didn’t I give him my shoes”?    

The Prochaska’s have been on two previous Fulbright assignments; Bulgaria (1998-2000) and Belarus (2005-2006).  Besides teaching at Colorado Tech since 1982, Frank has conducted numerous seminars in Eastern Europe and is presently in the Senior Specialist Fulbright Program and on their Peer Review Board.  Dr. Prochaska has lectured the last two years at the Summer University for Democracy in Strasbourg and continues to write, consult and teach in the interdisciplinary field of creative leadership